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Women’s Museums At Home: Decoding Inequality

In times when many museums worldwide are forced to keep their doors shut, we invite you to engage with exhibitions and collections of women’s museums virtually. On this blog we will share with you online exhibitions or virtual views into our member museums worldwide.

Rachel Thain-Gray, Doctoral researcher Feminist Museological Practice, presents this project and virtual exhibition: Decoding Inequality: Analysing narratives of inequality through objects.

Crones, zine by Rachael House, 2016

The Decoding Inequality project turns the analytical attention of Glasgow Women’s Library’s (GWL) Equality in Progress project directly to collections and interpretation.

To date, the Equality in Progress project has used theories of intersectional feminism to interrogate museums as institutions, with the aim of supporting practitioners to develop a much better awareness of systems of inequality. The Decoding Inequality project builds on this work by conducting a process of feminist interpretation or ‘decoding’ of our collection.

This project brings GWL’s embedded values of equality to the development of innovative approaches to exhibition and engagement rooted in social justice expertise.

Online Exhibition

You Have Struck a Rock: Women and Political Repression in Southern Africa, 1980

The objects in this exhibition have been chosen from the museum and archive collections of Glasgow Women’s Library. They were selected by staff and volunteers to reflect the nature of inequality and how it is experienced. The objects have been ‘decoded’ and analysed, addressing the inequalities that each object articulates and the context in which it was produced.

When it comes to telling the stories of inequality, by its nature, the GWL collection is atypical. This collection partly aims to address the imbalance of representation, and many artefacts reflect work to challenge dominant narratives and highlight inequalities, discrimination and oppression.

Many museums, archives and libraries with more mainstream institutional histories than GWL care for objects and collections that tell stories about inequality – but the narratives of inequality are implicit rather than explicit and are contained within the means of production, histories of ownership and representation. The very existence of these collections and the way in which they shape our understanding of the world reflects the historical imbalance of power and structural inequalities. In these institutions, inequality is often articulated by the presence of certain objects and the complete absence of others – even though these narratives are rarely explored.

The majority of objects shown in the GWL exhibition reflect the commitment of activists to identify, highlight and fight the inequalities that people face in all areas of life.

This exhibition is less about exposing hidden inequality within an archive or museum collection and is more about highlighting the many, often intersectional, inequalities that impact on people’s lives and how activists fight against them.

Rachel Thain-Gray

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